Medha Patkar to spearhead campaign on SEZs

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Hyderabad, Oct 4: National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) convener Medha Patkar today vowed to intensify the stir by the people affected by the Centre's Special Economic Policy, including the Kakinada multipurpose SEZ, for allegedly ignoring the concerns expressed by farmers, labourers and aqua workers.

Talking to reporters after calling on Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy at the Secretariat, she claimed that much of the 4100 hectares of land acquired for the Kakinada project were farmlands.

Ms Patkar reminded the Chief Minister of the assurance given to her by UPA chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi that croplands would not be acquired for SEZs.

Dubbing SEZs as 'special exploitation zones,' the social activist said people, whether in Kakinada, Nandigram (West Bengal) or Raigarh (Maharashtra), wanted decentralised development plans, furthering employment generation without displacement and not at the cost of agriculture.

She objected to states amending laws, including the Minimum Wages Act and Industrial Disputes Act, to deny protection to labourers in the SEZs.

'Lush green fields were acquired in the name of industrialisation,' she lamented, adding that industries should play a complimentary role in the overall development of the country, including agriculture, benefitting the local people in the process.

Making it clear that she was not opposed to the proposed project by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), she said, ''we are not opposing industrialisation per se.'' On the pretext of the project, more than 1035 hectares were handed over to one D K Mittal for construction of hotels, parks, swimming pools, parking lots, clubs, shopping malls, entertainment zones for the corporate houses and their employees, she claimed.

Demanding review of the SEZ policy, she wanted the Union and State Governments to ensure job security for displaced families and not to covertly allow the corporates and realtors to profit at the cost of farmers and labourers.

The NAPM would strengthen the hands of thousands of affected fishermen in three big blocks against the proposed SEZ in Kakinada, she said.

Criticising the Government's proposed rehabilitation policy, she said it merely talked of 'providing employment, subject to availability of vacancies and eligibility of the affected persons for the employment.' The SEZs were violative of Article 243 of the Constitution, which was introduced after the passage of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment bills introduced by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, to promote local self government.

''As per this Article, every village has to formulate its own development scheme to guide the District development plan,'' she explained.


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